Marie Anderson: Mystery Gifts
Hazel was watching her beloved Chicago White Sox on TV when her granddaughter, returning home from work, burst into the family room.
“Look what I found on the porch, Grandma!” Gilly held a gift-wrapped box. “It’s got my name on it, but not who it’s from.”
“Open it, sweetie!” Hazel said.
“You think it’s safe?”
Hazel grabbed a knitting needle from the basket at her feet. “No worries. I’ll defend us!”
Gilly laughed. Hazel smiled. It was always good to hear her granddaughter laugh. Gilly rarely smiled lately, much less laughed. Two months ago, Gilly had ended her engagement to Brad. What made it especially painful was that Brad taught science at the school where Gilly taught US History, and Brad’s ‘fling’ had been with another teacher at their school. Hazel knew that Gilly saw both of them nearly every school day. How could her granddaughter’s heart heal when she had to keep seeing those two heels at work?
Hazel patted the spot next to her on the sofa and Gilly sat down. Gilly unwrapped the box, folded back the tissue, and sighed.
“What’s this all about?” Gilly murmured.
She lifted out a fat little teddy bear wearing a purple bow tie.
“Oh, it’s adorable!” Hazel exclaimed.
Gilly sighed again. “Do you think it’s from Brad? He knows I collect them.”
“A lot of people know that,” Hazel said. “Hank, for instance.”
“That neighbor who painted our walls last year? He’s old!”
“Forty-three is not old.”
Gilly pursed her 28-year old lips.
“Well, it’s awfully cute,” Hazel said. “Will you keep it?”
Gilly shrugged. “I will for now.”
Over the next month, gifts kept appearing on the porch—sweet little things like a glass owl, a book of knock-knock jokes, and most recently, a bracelet made of purple glass beads.
“It has to be someone who knows me,” Gilly said as Hazel clasped the bracelet around Gilly’s wrist. “Purple’s my favorite color.”
“Purple’s a popular color, sweetie.”
“But what about the glass owl, Grandma? That’s my favorite bird!”
“Owls are my favorite bird,” Hazel said. “I thought yours was the eagle.”
Gilly laughed. “It’s owls now. Anyway, Grandma, I appreciate you taking the time to look out the window every day to try to catch my secret gift-giver, but that’s not fair to you. You’ve got better things to do.”
“You are so thoughtful, sweetie. But truly, I really don’t mind one bit.”
“Well, anyway, Grandma, I’ve got a plan to find out who it is.”
Hazel frowned. “What’s your plan, sweetie?”
“You’ll see, Grandma.”
The next day, Gilly returned from work accompanied by a young, brown-haired man. Hazel looked up from the TV where her Sox had just scored the tying run.
The man was tall and slim and pulled a black bag on wheels. He wore royal blue running shoes (comfortable and practical, Hazel thought), faded blue jeans torn at the knees (sadly typical for that age), and a light tan linen jacket (nice) over a Chicago Cubs tee shirt (unfortunate).
“Grandma, this is Mickey Pickett, a private detective. I’m hiring him to find out who’s putting these gifts for me on our front porch. I need to know! I mean, why the secrecy?”
“Good idea,” Hazel said. Not a good idea, Hazel thought. The mystery gifts were putting sparkle back in Gilly’s eyes and cheer in her voice. Why ruin a good thing? And though this Mickey detective had a nice smile, he was wearing a Chicago Cubs tee shirt. In Chicago, you were either Sox or Cubs.
“I’d like to hide a motion-activated camera on your porch,” Mickey was saying. Gilly and Hazel followed him out to the porch and watched him remove wires and two black metal boxes from his wheeled black bag. He began explaining what he’d do when suddenly he paused and looked down. A little bug was struggling upside down near their feet. He knelt and gently flipped the bug upright. The ladybug flew away.
Well, Hazel thought, he’s not all bad.
After the camera discussion, Gilly walked Mickey back to his car. Hazel stood on the porch, watching. Gilly was smiling as she chatted with Mickey. They leaned toward each other. Mickey said something that made Gilly laugh and punch his arm.
“He’s not bad for a Cubs fan,” Hazel said later. “I noticed he wasn’t wearing a wedding ring.”
Gilly blushed. “He’s just my detective, Grandma! Not a potential boyfriend!”
But Hazel decided that Gilly’s blush said otherwise.
A week later, another gift arrived, but the only thing Mickey’s hidden camera caught was the mailman putting it in the mailbox. It was a postage-stamped envelope addressed to Gilly. Inside was a typewritten note announcing that there’d be a ticket under Gilly’s name at the box office for Saturday’s concert at Orchestra Hall.
“I guess the mystery will soon be solved,” Gilly said to Hazel. “My mysterious gift-giver will probably have the seat next to mine. I’ll show up at Orchestra Hall and solve this thing once and for all.”
“Is that safe?” Hazel asked. “Maybe not by yourself, sweetie!”
“Come with me, Grandma. Bring your knitting needles!”
“How about that Mickey Pickett? You could have him standing by in the lobby.”
“Grandma, on a Saturday night? I wonder what he’d charge.”
“I’ll pay whatever he charges,” Hazel offered. “Let’s phone him now.”
But during the phone call, when Hazel explained the plan to Mickey, he replied, “Saturday night? My buddy is offering me his extra ticket to the Cubs game that night.”
Hazel frowned. “I’ll pay you double your rates. I want to make sure my granddaughter stays safe. We have no idea who’s behind these mystery gifts.”
“Huh,” Mickey said. Hazel waited. He cleared his throat. “You know, I guess I’m as curious as you to learn who this gift-giver is. OK. I’ll do it.”
On Saturday night, Hazel waited up, anxious to hear the outcome. It was nearly midnight when Mickey and Gilly walked through the front door.
“Grandma, it’s still a mystery,” Gilly said. “It was all couples sitting around me. There were no empty seats. So, during intermission, I left and joined Mickey in the lobby. We ended up having dinner and walking along the lake.
Mickey touched Gilly’s arm. “So, I’ll pick you up tomorrow around four?”
Hazel looked at her granddaughter’s glowing face. She looked at the dimples winking in Mickey’s cheeks. “What’s happening tomorrow, sweetie?”
“I’m afraid to tell you, Grandma.”
“Don’t get mad.”
“We’re going to the . . . I’m sorry, Grandma . . . we’re going to the Cubs game.”
“What? My own granddaughter? Going to the dark side?”
“Join us,” Mickey said. “Your ticket will be my treat. It’ll be my way to thank you.”
Hazel frowned. “For what?”
Mickey looked at Gilly who shrugged and said, “Go for it, Mickey.”
“Hazel,” Mickey said, “your secret gift-giving is how I met your beautiful granddaughter.”
“What? How’d you know?”
Mickey smiled. “I didn’t,” he said. “Until just now.” DSS
Marie Anderson of LaGrange, IL., has worked in offices, schools, a bank and a bakery. Her stories have been published in many literary magazines. She recently edited and published an anthology of work by 18 writers, 'The Wrong Coat,' and a collection of her previously published stories, 'What Good Moms Do and Other Stories.'
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